By Justin Guillou / April 4th, 2014
|Title||Danmaku Unlimited 2|
|Release Date||March 18, 2014|
|Platform||PC, iOS, Android|
Danmaku(弾幕)- A Japanese word that roughly translates to “curtain fire” is often used to refer to a barrage of bullets. The game we are dealing with is Danmaku Unlimited 2 or rather, Curtain Fire Unlimited!….THE SEQUEL! Sounds like the name of a nice B-movie.
Originally released for iOS and, later, Android devices, Danmaku Unlimited 2 is what we on the Internet call a bullet hell shoot ’em up or “SHMUP.” While playing one of these, you will notice that the game is doing everything in its power to engulf the screen with hundreds of bullets while you frantically maneuver your ship or character through wave after wave of bullets and retaliate with your own gunfire. These SHMUPs are characterized by elaborate and over-the-top bullet patterns, intricate scoring systems, tight controls, rocking music and an insane difficulty curve that leaves you coming back for more.
The version we are concerned with is the newly released Steam edition. To play this game, I will be using *cue trumpets*:
This badboy is a Mad Catz Xbox 360/PC WWE Brawlstick modded with seimitsu buttons and a LS-32 stick. In other words, I put this thing together specifically for use with games like Danmaku Unlimited 2! For the rest of you commoners without a fancy controller like me, a regular wired Xbox 360 controller will work fine, as well. Shall we begin?
The main menu gives you two main game modes; Arcade and Bonus. Arcade mode is the mode you will most likely try out first. You are also given two gameplay styles; Classic and Burst Mode. Once you select one, you are given a choice in difficulty. Easy, Normal, Hard or Extreme. I should probably mention that most of the screenshots in this review are from Extreme mode, and were taken by me as I was playing! Why? Because I like pain and tortur- I mean, I wanted to show off the game in all its glory. If it is your first time playing, I would recommend Easy or Normal, as they do an excellent job at getting you used to the controls and mechanics of the game. You can unlock the achievements in any of the difficulty settings, so pick whichever one suits you best. The achievements themselves are not too difficult to obtain, as I was able to gain most of them during my first hour! Anyways after the difficulty select, you can choose one of three weapon upgrades for your ship. The Forward Shot upgrade, Wide Shot upgrade or Homing Missiles. There is not much of a story to this game, other than that you are a ship out to take down these so-called “Valkyria” in each of the stages. Honestly, in a game like this, you do not really need much of a story other than SHOOT THEM ALL!
The game has five stages, and they are FLASHY! Seriously, the screen is constantly filled with bright and flashing colors. It’s actually quite cool-looking, and it runs very smoothly. In fact, I have yet to see any slowdown. However, those of you who get bothered by really bright lights; proceed with caution. Otherwise, be ready to be mesmerized by the visuals. The backgrounds and ships themselves are not too impressive-looking, but all of the visual effects and bullets fill in the holes quite nicely. If you ever find yourself hosting a party, rave or an event at a night club, and need strobe lights, just have someone play this game on a giant screen or projector and you are good to go! All of this shiny madness is accompanied by a hard metal soundtrack. The songs do their job all right, but I actually got a little sick of the music after playing through the game a couple times. It’s decent, but nothing to write home about. I also noticed that the actual sound effects are not as loud as other shoot ’em ups. This is actually very good, in my opinion, as certain SHMUPs tend to have overly chatty characters and bosses, and it can be distracting to constantly listen to them scream and say random phrases.
You can control your ship with either the analog stick or the D-pad. Words cannot describe how happy I am with this! It is way too often that a developer only maps movement to an analog stick, despite the game clearly being best suited and designed for D-pad movement. Not enough people realize how much of a difference this makes when comes to controlling your character! I will stop there before I go off on an unrelated rant. Another nice feature is that, when you press Start to resume your game after it has been paused, the game gives you three seconds to prepare yourself before you are thrown back into the chaos. Use those three seconds wisely! For those of you who have the proper setup, you can play the game in “Tate Mode” or vertical mode, which involves tilting your monitor 90 degees.
Your ship’s abilities are slightly different depending on the game mode. In Classic Mode, you have two shot buttons — one which is a Wide Shot and the other is a more powerful and focused Straight Shot. The drawback with the Straight Shot is that you move slower, so, during a boss fight, you will have to alternate between the two in order to properly dodge and attack the boss. In Burst Mode, your ship has a laser that gradually charges up as you defeat enemies. Build up enough energy, and you can unleash it upon the hordes of enemy ships. The laser can also cancel out enemy bullets.
Unlike many games in the genre, your ship is not destroyed in one hit. When your ship is damaged, your shield disappears. Get hit again before the shield regenerates, and you will lose a life. Take enough hits, however, and your shield will get destroyed, and you will not be able to use it until you lose a life. As you destroy enemies, you can build up another meter on the right side of the screen. This is your Trance Gauge. Once it’s filled, you can use your Trance, which clears the screen of any bullets and powers your ship up for a brief moment. In this game, everything matters, so take whatever help you can get.
Eventually, you will encounter a boss. These guys are huge, and start off the fight with a relatively simple pattern. No big deal, simply dodge and shoot it. Once the lifebar gets depleted, the screen starts flashing, and the boss regains its health. This is the game’s way of saying: “YOU A DEAD MAN!” These moments signify the boss’s change in attack pattern, and each one gets more ridiculous than the last. Expect a boss to change attack patterns a good four or five times before it finally bites the dust and you can proceed with the next level.
So, you managed to survive the five stages, or died trying. You will be brought to a screen that shows experience points, and, chances are, you leveled up! You read that correctly! This game has an experience system. Level up, and you can allocate points to upgrade various aspects of your ship, including the strength of your bullets, adding homing missiles, increasing the amount of lives you have and how many credits you have before getting a Game Over. This allows you to customize the ship the way you want and give you extra help in conquering the game in the different difficulty levels. Be sure to check out the Tutorial option in the Difficulty Select screen for some further insight on the ship’s abilities and upgrades.
Additional game modes include a Free Play mode where you can play any of the levels, and a Boss Rush, where you fight each boss in succession. There is even a hidden boss for hardcore players to unlock and challenge. Your high scores are also loaded onto an online leader board, so you can see where you stand in the community. Danmaku Unlimited 2 is not a very long game, as it will only take you about a half hour to complete the five stages, but the experience system and achievements encourage players to replay the game multiple times.
As a game collector, it always seemed like SHMUPs are among the most difficult type of games to collect. They are generally very unknown and overlooked, not many copies are printed and many do not even make it out of Japan. They also tend to be very expensive. Go ahead and look up how much a copy of Ibara, Batsugun or Ketsui Death Label goes for online, I will wait. Thankfully, many SHMUPs are now making their way to PCs, and, as a result, are much more accessible than they ever were before. Danmaku Unlimited 2 is a quality SHMUP, and a great entry point for newcomers. The best part is, it only costs $5! Those of you looking to play a bullet hell shooter, Danmaku Unlimited 2 is one you might want to check out.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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